Melatonin: Regulation of Viral Phase Separation and Epitranscriptomics in Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19

Doris Loh, Russel J. Reiter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The relentless, protracted evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus imposes tremendous pressure on herd immunity and demands versatile adaptations by the human host genome to counter transcriptomic and epitranscriptomic alterations associated with a wide range of short- and long-term manifestations during acute infection and post-acute recovery, respectively. To promote viral replication during active infection and viral persistence, the SARS-CoV-2 envelope protein regulates host cell microenvironment including pH and ion concentrations to maintain a high oxidative environment that supports template switching, causing extensive mitochondrial damage and activation of pro-inflammatory cytokine signaling cascades. Oxidative stress and mitochondrial distress induce dynamic changes to both the host and viral RNA m6A methylome, and can trigger the derepression of long interspersed nuclear element 1 (LINE1), resulting in global hypomethylation, epigenetic changes, and genomic instability. The timely application of melatonin during early infection enhances host innate antiviral immune responses by preventing the formation of “viral factories” by nucleocapsid liquid-liquid phase separation that effectively blockades viral genome transcription and packaging, the disassembly of stress granules, and the sequestration of DEAD-box RNA helicases, including DDX3X, vital to immune signaling. Melatonin prevents membrane depolarization and protects cristae morphology to suppress glycolysis via antioxidant-dependent and -independent mechanisms. By restraining the derepression of LINE1 via multifaceted strategies, and maintaining the balance in m6A RNA modifications, melatonin could be the quintessential ancient molecule that significantly influences the outcome of the constant struggle between virus and host to gain transcriptomic and epitranscriptomic dominance over the host genome during acute infection and PASC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8122
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • DDX3X
  • G3BP1
  • GSK-3
  • LINE1
  • depolarization
  • liquid-liquid phase separation
  • mA
  • melatonin
  • nucleocapsid
  • stress granule

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Catalysis
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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